Thursday, 3 July 2014

Small c and the Big C

I'm not sure at this point whether this blog is ever going to be published but in the last few days I've been aware that as writing is one of my best releases that perhaps I need to write about what is happening in my life. Perhaps my children may want to read it and it will help them to understand.

How ironic that my last blog should include a bucket list. Might just be needing that further down the line. However, here's an update on where we are:

While we were on our fabulous 30th wedding anniversary trip to Barcelona, I found a lump. It was on my left breast almost under my armpit. No immediate cause to panic. I've had one of these before, had it checked out and it has dispersed of its own accord. Keep an eye (or rather a hand) on it and see how things go. After all, twins' A levels are just a couple of weeks away and this is a distraction we don't need. A week before the end of the exams, I am still not actually full-on panicking but the lump, though no bigger, is definitely harder - but perhaps this is a reaction to the daily poking it's getting from me in the shower. At this point, I have to state that since I have an alarming number of friends who've had breast cancer I am a virtually daily-checker of that region. I don't miss much.

Time to make an appointment with the doctor. Our doctor is also one of our closest friends and indeed we (his family and ours) are planning to holiday together in July in Majorca (of which more later, obviously). So the day before the final Maths A level, the singing dancing doctor (as he has always been known in my blog) has examined the lump and says I need to get it checked. He says that he will send me to the best of the best (as they say in Top Gun) and that means going to York. Just the two of us know any of this - the singing dancing doctor and me. My beloved is away for a couple of days on business whilst all this is going on and I don't want him worrying about me so I manage to hold off till he gets back. As ever, when told, he puts a most positive spin on the proceeds so far, but I know... because I just do... that this is not going to be good.

Normal... that's all I want at home for now. No point in scaring the children until it's definite and so we do all the usual stuff to keep up the pretence although the senior dog is giving me strange looks - maybe I'm just imagining that. I manage to play two tennis matches for two teams, officiate at a juniors match, go to the school ball and stay on the dance floor till the bitter end (though I do resist the urge to shimmy up and down the tent pole unlike some others!) and even go to see The Eagles in concert with my beloved. This was his Christmas present from me and it was a really wonderful concert. I have a feeling that the Eagles may be the soundtrack to all this in my head. After all, it was The Eagles that was playing on the radio at the moment when the twins entered the world eighteen years ago.

And that's the thing really. There is a curious symmetry about much of this. I'm 58. I had 29 years of growing up myself (not always great as I am a classic at learning things the hard way) and 29 years (nearly) of bringing up my wonderful children. Perhaps this is just my time.

My beloved and I went to York Hospital on Wednesday leaving the post-exam, snoozy twins at home. Point about the design of York Hospital. They cleverly call the Breast Cancer centre the Magnolia Centre so you're not going into a tailspin of tears just going through the doors but it is sited immediately next to the Cancer Care Centre which has its name in gigantic letters right next to it. From a facing your fears point of view, this is like a gigantic slap in the face. Trying not to cry.

The singing dancing doctor is right. I've done my fair share of hospital appointments with number 1's hearing and number 3's ability to crash into stationary objects, hockey sticks etc and a couple of dashes to A&E with the intrepid granny and this is a cut above in terms of efficiency and caring. And I am very scared.

The consultant is really kind and curiously we discover a mutual bond in 18 year old twins. I know I'm in the right place from the off. The system at York means that you go from one element of the diagnostic process to the next with hardly any waiting. Mammogram (and yes I always attend those sessions in Morrisons car park when called) and then an ultra-sound. The radiographer is very quiet and spends a lot of time not so much on the lump but on my armpit. I'm no mug... this is not good. Although my knowledge of all things breast cancer-related is about to take a seriously upward trajectory from a comparatively low level, even I know this is not a good sign.

Back to the consultant and my beloved is hoiked out of the waiting room where he has been sitting for the last hour and half or so. It's almost certainly cancer. The lump is small - less than 2cms which seems to be good news or as near as we are going to get to such a thing. More tests. Needle first to take some cells for testing and a 45 minute wait for the results which may or may not tell us anything. And while we're waiting I'm off to have some proper tissue taken. Local anaesthetic and a full-on attack with something which feels like a heavy duty staple gun. Not pleasant and I am feeling a bit battered. However, all the staff are lovely and whilst all this is going on, I manage to establish the following:

I will get back home in time to watch Andy Murray play at Wimbledon.
I can definitely have a large drink.
I can play tennis tomorrow. Actually this last one proved a bit painful. Whacking the ball was ok but the throw up on the serve with my left hand felt a bit sore. But I did it anyway - of course!

Back to the consultant. He's my kind of man. He doesn't mind my swearing. In fact, in a subsequent telephone conversation he let me know that his language has been described as tourette's once he gets behind the wheel. I have to have surgery. And I want it now. Sorry, but 58 years of being impatient to get stuff done isn't going to change now. If I'm going to feel crap, bring it on, because, in theory at least, the sooner it's done, the sooner I will be me again. And I can have it done, but not by him and not in York. So we're booked for a trip to the seaside - Scarborough with another consultant on Tuesday.

Friday - bad day. The consultant rings. This isn't in the plan, I think, as I hear his voice. He has the results and it's not good. Grade 3 cancer (and because I'm that sort of girl, I've read through the book they gave me on Wednesday so I understand that this is the most aggressive form). Cue more bad language from me. Also at least one lymph node is infected so they will be removing all the lymph nodes. He wants to do the operation himself and he's made it possible. Next Wednesday at York with himself and the very kind breast cancer nurse Kim who may well be my new best friend. And yes, chemo is very likely for eighteen weeks - joy! And that's where we are now.

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